There are monumental judgment calls, in politics, in the corridors of power, in economic powerhouses, in religious domains and in social institutions.
Despite the mass of data available, most critical choices still come down to human judgment. To make crucial decisions, leaders need the best insights and authentic wisdom.
Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj (third from left) negotiated with Chin Peng to end the communist insurgency in Malaya.
People who make good judgment calls are hailed as great leaders, people who make poor judgment calls are considered poor leaders. In times of crises, disinformation and misinformation spin, the citizenry — lay and educated — will believe in everything, including distortions, and add on their own theories.
Someone wrote that people become constitutional experts, economic and currency experts, military and covert intelligence experts — you name it, we have it.
Therefore, especially in times of crises, ambiguities and uncertainties, there is need for powerful intellectual framework to restrain from making tough judgments calls too early, even when the stakes are high, and especially when the right path is not obvious.
Leaders who decide to send their citizens in harm’s way make the difficult judgment call for wars.
The ability to make judgment calls in the face of uncertainty, time and various conflicting pressures defines the great leaders.
Four types of knowledge for good judgment calls are:
SELF-KNOWLEDGE, personal values and goals;
SOCIAL network knowledge — those who surround the decision-maker daily;
ORGANISATIONAL knowledge — knowledge about people at all levels of the company or political party; and,
CONTEXTUAL knowledge — knowledge about stakeholders, customers, suppliers and stockholders, or citizenry.
Quality of leadership depends on quality of judgment made, especially in times of conflicts and great crises, particularly, in the domain of relations with people. (Noel M. Tichy and Warren G. Bennis 2007 — Judgment: How Winning Leaders Make Great Calls)
There are the very personal decisions on the choice of colour of a tie or scarf to the humanitarian decision of whether to help or leave migrants to die in the rough seas, and the malnourished and starving to die in the deserts.
The range of decisions we make is from inconsequential to life-changing. The range and variety of decision-making of varying degrees of importance impact on the self, immediate family, nation and even globally.
Not to approve particular drugs or euthanasia is also about making judgment calls during one’s watch, although they have the legitimate powers and authority to make decisions on their watch.
Examples of decisions and judgment calls across various domains are as follows:
THERE were the historic decisions to bomb Hiroshima with the atomic bomb and the change of plan — the judgment call not to bomb Kokura, but instead, to bomb Nagasaki;
MALAYSIA made the judgment call to support the United Nations Security Council to attack Iraq during the first Gulf War;
MALAYSIA stood firm in its decision to stand against apartheid;
THE judgment call made to release Nelson Mandela and allow him to contest for the presidency;
THE judgment call to dismantle weapons and nuclear arsenal in South Africa;
GANDHI made the judgment call for passive resistance and the Salt March;
GORBACHEV made the judgment call for the Soviet Union’s Glasnost “openness” policy;
TUNKU Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj negotiated with Chin Peng to end the communist insurgency in Malaya;
TUN Abdul Razak Hussein and Mao Tse Tung forged Malaysia-China relations;
DATUK Seri Abdul Hadi Awang making the judgment call for the implementation of hudud;
OTHERS making the judgment call for religious policing in a theocratic model of state;
ASEAN made the collective judgment to approve the Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality (Zopfan) that ensures no nuclear race in the region;
DECISIONS of the G8, G20, World Economic Forum, Security Council, WHO,
World Bank and European Union have global implications; and,
DURING the 1997/98 economic crisis, Malaysia introduced the RM3.80 peg against US$1.
We have to be conscious about our judgment calls, especially when it affects other people.
The judgment calls must be based on knowledge, experience, goodwill, good benefits and good deeds, founded on sacred virtues and universal values, mindful of the lessons in history regarding disastrous and negative consequences, as well as inspirational and uplifting in nature.
The sum of all these judgment calls are indicators of the measure of success in individual lives, and in national well-being and progress.
The question is whether ordinary people or leaders make good judgment calls about things which really matter, whether in the family, community, work organisation or in leading a nation.
Enlightened leaders who have the ability to exercise good judgment will determine the quality of life of people, nationally, regionally and